201. In The Arms of Love - The Eternal Collection

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English
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Beautiful young Aspasia Stanton and her twin brother Jerry are horrified when they receive a letter addressed to their uncle and guardian, the much-loved Reverend Theophilus Stanton from Her Grace the Duchess of Grimstone. In it she coldly announces that that having “reached the age of sixty-five, you are retired from your living and you will vacate the Vicarage within a month of this date”.Whatever are they do do? Without the Reverend’s stipend they have nothing at all to live on – And what of Little Medlock’s parishioners, who love their Vicar so dearly? Although the Duchess is notoriously a completely ruthless woman without a heart, Aspasia resolves to go to visit her and throw herself on her mercy, saying “I will do – anything you ask of me if Uncle Theophilus may remain at Little Medlock.”The poor innocent has no grasp of the evil that goes on behind Grimstone’s doors or of the terrible things that the wicked Duchess will demand of her. But the Fate sends the imperious, yet handsome, Marquis of Thame to visit the Duchess – a gentleman unimpressed and undaunted by her disreputable and wicked ways. But will he step in to save Aspasia from humiliation and dishonour? "Barbara Cartland was the world’s most prolific novelist who wrote an amazing 723 books in her lifetime, of which no less than 644 were romantic novels with worldwide sales of over 1 billion copies and her books were translated into 36 different languages.As well as romantic novels, she wrote historical biographies, 6 autobiographies, theatrical plays and books of advice on life, love, vitamins and cookery.She wrote her first book at the age of 21 and it was called Jigsaw. It became an immediate bestseller and sold 100,000 copies in hardback in England and all over Europe in translation.Between the ages of 77 and 97 she increased her output and wrote an incredible 400 romances as the demand for her romances was so strong all over the world.She wrote her last book at the age of 97 and it was entitled perhaps prophetically The Way to Heaven. Her books have always been immensely popular in the United States where in 1976 her current books were at numbers 1 & 2 in the B. Dalton bestsellers list, a feat never achieved before or since by any author.Barbara Cartland became a legend in her own lifetime and will be best remembered for her wonderful romantic novels so loved by her millions of readers throughout the world, who have always collected her books to read again and again, especially when they feel miserable or depressed.Her books will always be treasured for their moral message, her pure and innocent heroines, her handsome and dashing heroes, her blissful happy endings and above all for her belief that the power of love is more important than anything else in everyone’s life."

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Published 01 December 2016
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EAN13 9781788670876
Language English

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Author’s Note
Although in England, unlike Scotland, succession to a title goes only in the male line, but there have, however, been exceptions. The first and famous Duke of Marlborough under a special Act of Parliament was succeeded by his daughter, Henrietta, who became the second Duchess of Marlborough. The Earl Mountbatten of Burma, who was assassinated in 1979 was under the same Act of Parliament succeeded by his daughter, Baroness Brabourne, who has become the Countess Mountbatten of Burma and her son will assume the title on her death.
CHAPTER ONE ~ 1819
The Marquis of Thame watched his horses gallop past and turned with a smile of satisfaction to his friend Charlie Caversham. “Two minutes, twenty seconds!” he exclaimed. “That is the fastest any horse I have ever owned has managed on this gallop.” “I told you that Red Duster was a winner when I first saw him,” Charlie answered. “I know you did,” the Marquis replied, “but it never pays to be over-optimistic where horses or women are concerned.” They both laughed. The Marquis put his watch into his pocket and walked away to find his trainer and congratulate him. The Marquis had been exceedingly successful on the turf during the last year and he knew it was because he had sacked his old trainer and taken on a new man whose enthusiasm and ideas were proving almost sensational where his stable was concerned. They had a long discussion on the various merits of all the horses that they had just watched on the gallop. Then the Marquis and the Honourable Charles Caversham swung themselves onto the saddles of the two horses that they had ridden to the Newmarket Downs on and began to ride back towards the Marquis’s house. It was on the outskirts of the small town, which was concerned entirely with the racing fraternity. It was the Prince Regent who had originally made it clear that he greatly enjoyed coming to Newmarket and his lead had been followed, as it had been centuries before when King Charles II had said the same thing, by all the other owners so that Newmarket had grown from a small village into a thriving community. The Marquis’s house, which had been built by his father, was a long low building of mellow red bricks, which was not only admired by those who saw it but his guests found it one of the most comfortable of his many houses. Exceedingly wealthy, besides bearing a distinguished name, the Marquis owned houses in many parts of England. There was Thame, the main family seat, which was spoken of as being one of the finest and most outstanding country mansions built by Robert Adam. It was impossible not to admire his Hunting Lodge in Leicestershire which was large enough to hold a party of fifty guests without overcrowding, his house at Ascot, which he occupied only during Race Week and, of course, his house in London situated in fashionable Berkeley Square. His closest friend, Charles Caversham, reflected that perhaps the Marquis was most at home in Newmarket simply because it was redolent of the sport he most enjoyed. The room the two friends walked into when they entered the house was hung with pictures of racehorses by great artists and the leather chairs were in the dark green that was predominant in the Marquis’s racing colours. “Put your money on Red Duster, Charlie,” the Marquis suggested, as he moved towards the drinks on the grog table. “I have every intention of doing so,” Charlie answered. “At the same time I think we ought to do it cleverly otherwise as usual your horse will become favourite and we shall be offered very short odds.” “I agree with you,” the Marquis replied. “So the less we say about the results we saw this morning the better!” He poured his friend out a glass of champagne and, as he took it, Charlie raised it to toast, “To Red Duster. And may your proverbial good luck never grow less!” “Thank you, Charlie,” the Marquis smiled.
He refilled his friend’s glass, but he poured very little into his own and, although Charlie noticed it, he said nothing, knowing how abstemious the Marquis was. Extremely athletic the Marquis was proud of the fact that he could outride, out-box, out-shoot and out-fence all his friends, while a long day’s hunting, which would often leave them exhausted, merely seemed to give him a new zest that it was impossible not to envy. “Are we driving back to London this afternoon?” Charlie asked him. “I don’t know,” the Marquis replied. “I have not yet made up my mind.” “About what?” “Whether I should accept a very strange invitation.” “From whom?” “I wanted to tell you about it last night,” he answered, “but with all those people to dinner it was impossible. You may be able to enlighten me now on something that has been puzzling me for some time.” “It sounds mysterious.” Charlie grinned as he spoke, because he knew there was nothing the Marquis enjoyed more than something that was puzzling, difficult to understand or could not immediately be put into its proper category. The two friends had fought at the Battle of Waterloo together and Charlie knew that, despite his wealth and being lionised by the raffish Society that circled around the Prince Regent, the Marquis was often bored. He was too energetic and too vivid a personality to be content with Royal dinner parties or the innumerable beautiful women who pursued him relentlessly. After the long War against Napoleon, despite the fact that prices were high and many people in the country were suffering from poverty and privation, the Social world celebrated peace with an outburst of balls, parties,soirées, Receptions, Assemblies and fireworks that succeeded each other night after night and inevitably after four years had become somewhat monotonous and repetitive. The Marquis certainly diversified his interests between his addiction to sport and his lavish entertaining in his houses both in London and the country. Equally Charlie often thought that there was something missing and he decided somewhat wryly that it was in fact the dangers of war that had given his friend an interest more exciting than anything that he found now that there was peace. The Marquis walked to his desk and, putting down his glass of champagne almost untouched, picked up a letter that was heavily embossed with a Ducal crest. He looked at it for a moment and then he asked, “What do you know, Charlie, about the Duchess of Grimstone?” “Quite a lot, as it happens,” Charlie replied. “But I am surprised that you should have heard from her, if that is who your letter is from.” Holding the letter in his hand the Marquis sat down in a comfortable armchair opposite his friend as he went on, “I will tell you what has happened and then I will be eager to hear anything you may be able to tell me.” “I am listening.” “The last time I was down here, about two months ago,” the Marquis began, “my Agent, a stolid, rather uncommunicative man, surprised me by complaining volubly about things that were taking place on our boundary with the land belonging to the Duchess.” “Good Heavens! I had no idea of that,” Charlie exclaimed. “Apparently she owns a great deal of land, twenty thousand acres or more, North of Newmarket,” the Marquis said, “much of it, I believe, wild and uncultivated with a few scattered villages.” Charlie nodded as if he was already aware of this, but he did not speak and the Marquis continued, “According to Jackson, the Duchess’s keepers and woodmen were behaving in an aggressive and quite unnecessarily harsh manner to my tenants and farmers.” “Why should they do so?”
“I did not think at the time that what Jackson told me was very important,” the Marquis replied. “Farmers complained that if their cattle or sheep strayed they were never seen again. Dogs were shot if they ventured into Her Grace’s woods and there were one or two other minor complaints, which I told Jackson I did not take seriously.” “Go on.” “I, however, received a letter from Jackson about two weeks ago, written laboriously, as I have said, he is not an articulate man, saying that there was consternation at one farm when not only some cattle went missing but one of their herdsmen had been beaten up and a girl of fifteen had disappeared.” The Marquis paused before he added, “I realised then that this was definitely serious and I wrote to the Duchess stating what I had been told and asking for an explanation.” “And now you have her reply,” Charlie said. “Exactly,” the Marquis answered “but it is not what I expected.” “Why not?” “Because from what I had heard,” the Marquis said, “and I must admit it is not much, she is an aggressive difficult woman who men like Jackson find it hard to express themselves to.” “What does she say in her letter?” Charlie enquired. “She has written charmingly inviting me to stay with her tonight and saying that it would be easier to discuss the situation between our two estates than to allow our employees to come to loggerheads with each other.” The Marquis stared down at the letter as he went on, “It sounds simple enough. At the same time it is not in keeping with what I have heard about her.” Charlie laughed. “Now I will tell you what I know.” “That is what I want you to do,” the Marquis nodded. “The Duchess’s father, the third Duke, was a friend of my father’s,” Charlie started. “He was a magnificent man, extremely good-looking, strong, fearless and a kind of hero of his age. He spent a great deal of his life travelling and there are stories about him which according to my grandfather and my father were told and re-told all over the world.” He laughed before he carried on, “He was the sort of man who they said stopped a war single-handed, faced thousands of murderous tribesmen alone and performed other feats of skill and endurance that made the stories of him sound like something out of one of Scott’s novels.” The Marquis was now extremely interested. “Go on, Charlie. I had no idea of all this.” “It was long before our time,” Charlie commented, “and Napoleon’s War made us forget what happened in the last century.” “Go on telling me about the Duke.” “He was so busy with his heroic feats that according to my father women played little part in his life and he did not marry until just before he was forty.” “Very wise,” the Marquis said dryly and his friend knew that at thirty-four the Marquis had said a dozen times that he had no intention of marrying if he could help it. “Of course what the Duke wanted when he found that he had time to take a woman to the altar was what every man wants. A son.” The Marquis looked down at the letter he held in his hand and Charlie knew what he was thinking. “That is what I am going to explain,” he said. “His wife gave him a child the year after they were married, but it was a daughter.” “You mean to say that the Duchess of Grimstone is the late Duke’s daughter?” the Marquis explained. “But how could she bear his title?” “That is what I am going to tell you,” Charlie answered. “He had carried out some very special
service for the country, I cannot now remember what it was, and the King asked how he could reward him. He was already a Duke and there was no higher rank that he could attain. So the Duke requested that, if he did not produce a son before he died, the King should permit with the approval of Parliament, that the title be carried on in the female line as happens in Scotland.” “And the King agreed.” “Of course. It was a small reward for what the Duke had done. But what His Majesty did not know was that the Duke had already been told by the doctor that his wife could never have another child.” “That was bad luck,” the Marquis remarked. “Very bad where the Duke was concerned and, as it turned out for everybody else.” The way Charlie spoke made the Marquis look at him intently and he said, “By the time the Duke’s only child was grown up my father said that everybody was aware that she was strange and very different from other girls of her age.” “In what way?” “She knew that, as she would be a Duchess and extremely wealthy, she was obviously a tremendous catch on the marriage market. So she decided to model herself on Queen Elizabeth.” The Marquis looked puzzled. “What do you mean by that?” “She encouraged her suitors. She played them off one against the other, but she made up her mind that no one but herself would ever control her fortune.” The Marquis smiled. “In other words, she decided to become a ‘Virgin Duchess’.” “Not exactly,” Charlie replied. “Suitors for her hand came not only from the British Isles but from other countries that were not under the heel of Napoleon. Although she undoubtedly accepted some of them as lovers, she would not allow any of them to make an honest woman of her.” The Marquis laughed. “She sounds amusing. I shall certainly accept her invitation!” “It might have been amusing if as she grew older she had not developed into a tyrant. She has been described sometimes as a Circe or as a Medusa.” “What is she like now?” the Marquis enquired. “I have not heard of her for some years,” Charlie replied. “My father used to talk about her simply because he admired the old Duke. He said that power had gone to her head and she was that most frightening of creatures, a completely ruthless woman without a heart.” “Strong words,” the Marquis said mockingly. “The way my father talked made her seem to me to be somewhere between Lady Macbeth and the Queen of the Amazons.” The Marquis laughed again. “After all you have said I shall most certainly accept the Duchess’s invitation.” “I think it would be a mistake.” “A mistake?” the Marquis echoed. “Why?” “Because some years ago when her beauty began to fade she withdrew from the Social world and lived exclusively down here at Grimstone House.” “That is why I suppose I have never heard about her,” the Marquis commented. “We did not have much chance during the War to hear about anybody!” “That is true,” the Marquis agreed. “At the same time what you have told me intrigues me.” “I thought it would,” Charlie replied, “but I have lately heard rumours of some very unpleasant happenings that take place at Grimstone, which make me think that you would be wiser to stay away and express your complaints by letter rather than in person.” “You have already succeeded in making me more curious than I was before,” the Marquis said, “so I shall look forward to meeting this Gorgon, if that is what she is.” “I am trying to remember all I have heard about her,” Charlie continued, wrinkling his brow. “But you know what it is when you have not met the person being talked about. Everything goes in one ear and out of the other.”